Princeton Township Committee 2011



Vote Tuesday, November 8, 2010

Polls are open from 6 AM to 8 PM

EDITOR'S NOTE: These are the verbatim responses of the candidates for Princeton Township Committee to questions presented by The League of Women Voters of the Princeton Area in cooperation with The Princeton Packet. The candidates were allowed to vary the length of their answers to the three questions but were given a word limit for the total.

Candidates – Vote for two (three-year term)

Geoff Aton – Republican, Spent entire career in financial services.

Bernard (Bernie) Miller (incumbent) – Democrat, Retired. Facebook: “Bernie Miller & Sue Nemeth for Princeton Township Committee”

Sue Nemeth (incumbent) – Democrat, Director of Development, Center for American Women and Politics. Miller & Nemeth for Princeton Township Committee on Facebook

Mark Scheibner – Republican, Analyst specializing in transnational issues.

What are the key issues that you think are most important to resolve in achieving an agreement with the University about the Arts, Education and Transit district?

Mr. Aton: The latest Arts Education and Transit District meeting agenda was identical to the previous one. The same issues were being debated: How high can the fly tower be built? How wide can a parking space be made? While I don’t diminish the importance of these questions, I believe having a better town/gown relationship will help the committees not be bogged down in arguing minor details and focus on the macro picture. In this case, Princeton University wants to invest $300 million to beautify an otherwise mediocre part of town—and without any Princeton taxpayer dollars. Increasing the efficiency in which business is transacted in the Township is priority one. When we achieve this goal and reestablish mutual respect, agreements can be reached.

Mr. Miller: The University’s proposal for an arts, education and transit district is defined in a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that I helped negotiate between Princeton Borough, Township and the University. It is a many faceted agreement that must be viewed holistically. Although I’m not enthusiastic about moving the Dinky station, the University’s proposal offers much to our community, including a beautiful new arts campus, performance spaces, a greatly improved Dinky station, and an opportunity to work with the University to improve mass transit in our community. I support the process that led to the MOU and the plan to construct the new arts campus while adhering to the provisions of the MOU and the benefits that it provides to our community.

Ms. Nemeth: The University’s intention to move the Dinky a short distance further from the heart of downtown is the key roadblock to the AET district. The MOU, which I intend to support, addresses many of the community’s concerns and contains important provisions to improve roadways, walkways, bikeways, the station, parking, buses, taxis and shuttles, as well as funding to help us study and plan to meet future transportation needs. It’s in our collective best interest to achieve an agreement that could yield $100 million in mass transit and roadway improvements to our community at NO TAXPAYER EXPENSE.

Mr. Scheibner: I support the Arts and Transit neighborhood, but believe we need to improve the relations between our community and the University. I propose forming a standing University Commission to re-establish an effective working partnership with the University, and providing continuity through an official forum where we can help each other prosper. After over 250 years, isn’t it time we value our special relationship with the University and give it the prominence it deserves?

Are you in favor of consolidation as it will be described on the ballot? Why or why not?

Mr. Aton: The only change I would like to make to the Consolidation Commission’s report would be adding wards. This would appropriately distribute representation within the community. Princeton has a great opportunity to show the state how well a municipality can operate. We can be the benchmark for efficiency, transparency and fiscal responsibility. Throw out the borough budget; throw out the township budget; and start over from scratch. The taxpayer cannot continue to be the fallback plan for rising costs and mismanagement. Consolidation will be a challenging task, but a combined Princeton will be a better place for it.

Mr. Miller: I will vote for consolidation. It offers an opportunity for savings for existing municipal services of $3.2 million per year in personnel and related costs when fully implemented. It also offers the opportunity for future capital and operational savings from a more efficient government. It will empower the residents of our neighborhoods that are divided by a municipal boundary that was drawn more than 100 years ago. We have a choice – remain separate and face a future of ever increasing taxes or reduced services, or consolidate and move towards reducing the cost of our local government while providing the services that we expect. The choice is clear – UNITE PRINCETON!

Ms. Nemeth: I wholeheartedly support uniting Princeton. Both the Borough and Township have taken steps to ensure a successful merger by sharing services, reducing staff levels (18% over the past 5 years in the Township alone), and trimming operating budgets. The next important step is full municipal consolidation, including police and public works. The plan crafted by the Consolidation Study Commission is much more than a simple add and stir recipe. It is a thoughtful reorganization plan that will:

· save residents $3.2 million a year;

· preserve and improve services for all residents of Princeton;

· better utilize limited resources in a tough economy;

· facilitate long-term planning and smart growth;

· improve emergency response and enhance public safety; and,

· strengthen our bargaining position with the University.

Consolidation will protect our Princeton way of life and showcase Princeton as an example of good government in action. We don’t need to wait for the state to provide property tax relief. The power to make this important change rests in our collective hands.

Mr. Scheibner: I am a holdout on consolidation under the proposed, partisan, borough form of government. I believe Princeton deserves better, and that we would be unified best by consolidation under a non-partisan form of government.

Can there be any doubt in our minds today that partisanship is counter-productive and detrimental to our governance? Just look at the dysfunction caused by partisanship at the national and state levels. Princeton is indeed fortunate to have working examples of successful non-partisan institutions. Our school board is elected on a non-partisan slate, and one result is we have a nationally ranked school system. Another non-partisan institution is Princeton Future, which has truly proven itself to be the future of Princeton. Non-partisan elections are an option provided under the Faulkner Act.

For more analysis, check out:

Whether or not we consolidate, there will still be a time period when elected officials work on the business of Township government. What would be your major concern for the Township in the coming year?

Mr. Aton: My major concern in the upcoming year is the clearly dysfunctional relationship with the University. This situation will simply not mend itself. A fresh perspective is necessary to once again forge a collaborative town/gown environment. Alongside the mayor, I can enable Nassau Hall and Township Hall to work together allowing Princeton to grow and flourish. Only together can the two create new mutually beneficial ideas and visions. If a governing body cannot achieve this for the community, why do we keep electing the same officials? Put Princeton before politics. We can do better.

Mr. Miller: The major challenges we face are dependent on the outcome of the consolidation referendum.

If rejected, we will face three major concerns. First, we must do our utmost to hold the line on property taxes. Second, we must examine the operational and financial feasibility of sharing police services with the Borough. Third, in light of the financial stress that both municipalities face, we must work with the Borough to examine our shared services to understand how they can be best funded and maintained in the future.

If approved, in addition to holding the line on property taxes, we must work with the Borough to implement the roadmap to the savings and more effective government described in the consolidation study report.

Ms. Nemeth: Whether or not we consolidate, holding the line on property taxes without reducing essential services will be my major concern. To achieve these goals, the Township must focus on negotiating with Princeton University for a fair Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT). Township residents expect the University to be a full partner in contributing to essential services. I look forward to serving on the team representing the interests of taxpayers in these negotiations.

Mr. Scheibner: I propose the creation of an Economic Development Commission to create new jobs and revenue streams for our community. More Revenue Equals Tax Relief. Let’s make job creation, new revenue streams, and tax relief a top priority.

Princeton must be a community that provides jobs and new revenue streams, so all can afford to live and retire here. This is well beyond the brief of a Business Improvement District. We must diversify from our over-reliance upon property tax ratables and PILOTS. As an “all hands” issue, the Commission should consist of government, citizens, the business community and the University working together to address land use issues, job creation, and developing new, sustainable revenue streams for our community.

Insist Upon Outcomes-Based Budgets, because our tax dollars should be used wisely.

Promote the Post of a Sustainability Coordinator for the Township.

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